What Kind of Ammo is Best for Self-Defense

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

A while back I talked to you about selecting the best self-defense gun for you. Basically, my recommendation boiled down to selecting the largest caliber that you were comfortable firing. There’s a good reason for that, as the larger the caliber, the more damage it causes. Ultimately, the idea is to cause that damage, so that the other person either bleeds out or is incapacitated by your shots.

But there’s another part of this argument, one that is just as important as what gun you use; that is, what kind of ammo you select to use. While some would say that ammo is ammo and that the caliber really decides that for you, it’s not quite true. There are differences in types of ammo and what they will do for you.

Before going any farther, there is a tradeoff that I feel is important to discuss. By and large, we want to cause the most possible damage to anyone we are shooting at. But any ammo which can cause damage to them, can also cause damage to anyone else that the ammo hits, if you miss what you are shooting at. That’s an important consideration and one that you need to think about. If a family member is in the next room and you miss hitting a home invader, will you end up hitting that family member instead?

If that’s going to be the case, then it would make sense to use ammo which would cause the minimum possible damage to your family member. But here’s the rub. Using that ammo makes it more dangerous for you, if you end up in a shootout with the criminal. That’s even worse if the criminal is on drugs.

The real key here is to work on your shooting ability, so that you don’t miss the perpetrator and have to worry about your rounds going through the wall. You can figure your shooting ability will drop to about 20% of normal in such a situation. That means that what would normally be a 4” group will turn into a 20 inch group, five times as big. So, if you can get yourself down to a 2” group at rapid fire, chances are pretty good you’ll hit the person you’re trying to.

But what about our original question? What about ammo?

One thing to consider is using frangible rounds. These are specially made bullets, which look a lot like hollow points. The major difference is that they are designed to fragment upon impact. While the theory is that this creates a larger wound, the main purpose of it is so that the bullets will fragment when hitting a wall and not pass through it.

Please note that while frangible rounds are not supposed to pass through a normal interior wall of a home, manufacturers do not guarantee that it won’t. Independent tests provide mixed results, with some saying that it will still pass through walls with enough velocity to be lethal.

Once again, the solution is to make sure that you’re as good a shot as possible and only shoot when you are sure you can hit your target.

Leaving frangible rounds aside, we’re left with either normal jacketed ball ammo (usually called “full metal jacket” or “FMJ) or hollow points, which are often referred to as “self-defense rounds.” FMJ rounds are standard military rounds, which probably has a lot to do with them being the standard for shooting. The copper jacket also leaves less material in the rifling of your gun’s barrel, which is a nice fringe benefit.

Fully jacketed rounds tend to penetrate well. That’s the idea. The bullet retains the integrity of its shape as it passes through a body or through an obstacle that is before the body. That means two things. The first is that it is more likely to pass all the way though the body, than a hollow point bullet is, and the second is that if it does that, it won’t transfer all of its energy into the body.

The result of this is that you get less damage from a FMJ bullet, than you do from a hollow point. Since the idea behind shooting a bad guy is to inflict damage on him, that’s not ideal. You’re actually better off using hollow points.

But do hollow points really work?

First of all, hollow points are not magical; they’re just bullets. What the hollow point does is make it so that the bullet starts to deform, changing shape when it comes into contact with a body. A perfectly deformed hollow point will look somewhat like a flower, as the metal peels open, forming the petals.

This means that the hollow point bullet is going to create a larger permanent cavity in the body of anyone it hits. That’s good, assuming you hit the person you’re aiming at. The larger the permanent cavity, the greater the damage and the more they’ll bleed. All of that adds up to your bullet accomplishing more of what it’s supposed to, even if it doesn’t make them fly across the room, Hollywood style.

But there’s more. Since the bullet has expanded and is making a larger hole, it is less likely to go all the way through the person it hits. So, there’s less chance that it will pass through them, hitting someone behind. At the same time, the energy in that bullet has to go somewhere for the bullet to stop, and it does. It goes into the person hit by the bullet. That adds to the damage and increases the possibility that the hit might actually cause them to fall down.

All this adds up to the fact that you’re better off using hollow point rounds for self-defense, than FMJ rounds. The larger hole and greater energy transfer means that your hit has a greater chance of doing exactly what you want, stopping the bad guy from doing you harm.

So, if you don’t already have hollow points loaded in your self-defense pistol, why not go out and buy some? Sounds to me like the way to go.

And in the mean time, be sure to keep your powder dry (including those new hollow points) and your survival gear close at hand.

Chris and Dr. Rich

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